Sweet fracking: How U.S. oil boom fuels chocolate craving

Wed Oct 29, 2014 5:41pm EDT
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By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. chocolate demand may get an extra boost from an unlikely source this Halloween: the U.S. shale revolution.

With an abundance of crude oil due to the country's fracking boom pushing average U.S. retail gasoline prices to their lowest in four years, consumers have spare change to buy sweets at gas station stores, Hershey President and Chief Executive Officer John Bilbrey said on Wednesday.

"You could say that we benefit because people aren't spending as much at the pump and they're going inside," Bilbrey said in a conference call with investors to discuss quarterly earnings.

To be sure, consumers were still buying snacks on the road even when gas prices were much higher in recent years, and Hershey does not include fuel costs in its forecasting, Bilbrey said.

But it's an additional sweet spot for the maker of Hershey Kisses and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups after better-than-expected demand ahead of Halloween, the biggest U.S. chocolate selling holiday.

Annual chocolate candy sales add up to as much as $18 billion in the United States.

More than a quarter of those this year will be in forecourt retailers, including gas station shops like Shell, and convenience stores like 7-Eleven [SILC.UL], according to market research firm Euromonitor.

That's second only to mixed retailers, which include department stores like Macy's Inc.   Continued...